Deleting Debt: Volunteering through loan forgiveness program

WSVN — It's that time of year again, college kids are getting back to school. Most will graduate with a degree and thousands of dollars in student loan debt, but as 7's Danielle Knox shows us, there's a way to start deleting that debt while gaining work experience.

Like so many college graduates, Anthony Teague had a degree, no job and thousands of dollars in student loans to pay back.

Anthony Teague: "Loans paid for college essentially for me." 

Instead of feeling excited about starting his new life, Anthony felt trapped under all that debt.

Anthony Teague: "I had loans, I had debt. I knew I needed to pay that off." 

Sadly, he is not alone.

According to government statistics, the class of 2015 owes an estimated $35,000 each in student loans.

David Johns: "Too often an individual's life opportunities are dictated by whether or not we have the ability to pursue a job that allows us to pay back the debt that we've accrued." 

But there is a way for some graduates to have most of that debt disappear and get work experience at the same time.

Anthony Teague: "The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program."

David Johns from the U.S. Department of Education says this federal program allows graduates to work toward having their loans forgiven.

David Johns: "Eliminate or forgive direct loans for individuals."

Here's how it works: You have to volunteer full time for a public service organization, like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.

David Johns: "The most important thing is that the work is fairly anchored in or focused on public service."

Anthony researched his options and found an organization called City Year through the AmeriCorps program. 

He worked as a counselor with inner city students. While volunteering, AmeriCorps gave him money to make his regular student loan payments $5,000 in total. He also received a small stipend for living expenses.

Anthony Teague: "It's just enough to pay your rent, put food on the table."

Once Anthony had made the regular payments, the balance of his loan was forgiven.

Anthony Teague: "I don't know how I would have done it otherwise."

And he says he got much more from the program than just his debt paid.    

Anthony Teague: "All the work that I put in, I feel like I've gotten back in professional development, I've gotten back in professional opportunities to advance in my career." 

Anthony says, for graduates looking to delete their debt, this program can be an invaluable experience.

Anthony Teague: "Look into it. Do yourself that service of looking into it."

Anthony is now a director for the City Year program, and he's gone back to school to get his master's degree from Florida International University.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

www.Americorps.gov
www.CityYear.org
www.studentaid.gov